Lauren Foley, Jasculca Terman on behalf of Brookfield Zoo, 708.297.0658,
October 1, 2021
Statement from Chicago Zoological Society
11-year-old Amur tiger tests positive for COVID-19

Brookfield, Ill. — An 11-year-old Amur tiger at Brookfield Zoo has tested positive for COVID-19. Malena began showing some evidence of mild respiratory illness late last week, including lethargy, coughing, and sneezing, which are symptoms consistent with what other zoos have seen in big cats with COVID-19. Samples were first submitted to the University of Illinois Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory and then to the USDA’s National Veterinary Services Laboratories, the government agency responsible for monitoring and reporting all positive COVID cases in animals.
Malena’s prognosis is good based on the illness in big cats at other zoos, according to Dr. Mike Adkesson, vice president of clinical medicine for the Chicago Zoological Society, which manages Brookfield Zoo. “Malena is an older tiger and therefore at an elevated risk. However, she’s in good health and her symptoms have been relatively minor. We are optimistic she will make a full recovery.” 
Similar symptoms have also developed in some of the other cat species at the zoo, prompting the veterinary staff to submit additional testing to the lab. The finals results of those tests will be available from the USDA – NVSL sometime next week. Currently, all animals experiencing COVID symptoms are recovering and doing well.
Earlier this month Malena and other high-risk animals at Brookfield Zoo began receiving their first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine designed specifically for animals and developed by animal health company Zoetis. Malena received her first dose on September 16 and was due to receive her second dose next week.
“Having had one dose of the animal vaccine, it’s reasonable to expect that Malena’s immune system was partially primed to combat the virus, and therefore the severity of her illness has been decreased,” continued Dr. Adkesson.
For zoogoers, masks continue to be required inside all zoo buildings. As a precaution, the zoo has closed its Clouded Leopard Rain Forest and Desert’s Edge indoor exhibits until further notice. The big cats will continue to have access to their outdoor habitats, which are adqueately distanced from the public walkway.
Chicago Zoological Society staff is diligent about the care they provide the animals at Brookfield Zoo. Protocols require staff to wear masks while indoors when working in close proximity to co-workers and animals. Most of the animal care staff is fully vaccinated. However, vaccinated individuals can still spread the virus without showing symptoms. The source of the infection is not known.

#      #      #
About the Chicago Zoological Society
The mission of the Chicago Zoological Society is to inspire conservation leadership by engaging people and communities with wildlife and nature. The Chicago Zoological Society is a private nonprofit organization that operates Brookfield Zoo on land owned by the Forest Preserves of Cook County. The Society is known throughout the world for its international role in animal population management and wildlife conservation. Its Center for the Science of Animal Care and Welfare is at the forefront of animal care that strives to discover and implement innovative approaches to zoo animal management. Brookfield Zoo is the first zoo in the world to be awarded the Humane Certified™ certification mark for the care and welfare of its animals, meeting American Humane Association’s rigorous certification standards. Open every day of the year, the zoo is located at 8400 31st Street in Brookfield, Illinois, between the Stevenson (I-55) and Eisenhower (I-290) expressways and also is accessible via the Tri-State Tollway (I-294), Metra commuter line, CTA and PACE bus service. For further information, visit


Sondra Katzen
Media Relations Manager
Office: 708-688-8351
Cell Phone: 708-903-2071


Center for the Science of Animal Care and Welfare

Read about our innovative practices in animal welfare to ensure the ultimate care of our individual animals.


Visit Brookfield Zoo

Create extraordinary connections with animals and nature!

Animal Welfare

You Can Help!

Become our partner in caring for animals and in connecting people with wildlife and nature.